Additive manufacture, often popularly called “3D printing”, uses techniques such as laser fusion of metal powders to create optimal design solutions that could not be made other ways. Such components are lighter and stronger than conventional parts, but because of the way they are made the standard methods for assuring their quality cannot be used. This is a particular problem for safety-critical components in industries like nuclear and aerospace.
In a rapidly expanding field this methodology remains to be further developed to account for the growing range of material types and manufacturing techniques. However, the initial test applications have been very successful.